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This Wasn't The First Time FIBA Suspended PH Basketball

Remember the 1983 Hong Kong ambush?
by Jay P. Mercado | Jul 21, 2018
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The axe has fallen.

Ten Filipino players and two coaches, as well as the Samahan ng Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), were either suspended and/or fined by the basketball governing body FIBA, after the tumultuous World Cup Asian qualifying game between the Gilas Pilipinas and Australia earlier this month at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

While this wasn't the first time two teams figured in a melee during a FIBA-sanctioned tournament, the Gilas-Aussie basket-brawl unarguably gained the biggest exposure in the global stage. With PH hosting the Boomers while tied for the lead with 4-1 cards, the match was about pride and prestige. Emotions spilled on the floor that led to the infamous free-for-all in the four-minute mark of the third quarter with Australia up, 79-48.

Thirteen players from both camps were suspended, Gilas assistant coach Jong Uichico and head coach Chot Reyes was sanctioned with three-game and one-game bans, respectively, plus over P500,000 in fine. At the same time, both basketball organizations were fined—the SBP at 250,000 Swiss francs and Basketball Australia with CHF 100,000.

The penalty may be the biggest and heftiest given by the FIBA to any member country in its 86-year history. Yet, despite the punitive action, the SBP was able to heave a sigh of relief, having expected the worst. It could have easily been the cancellation of the country's 2023 World Cup hosting duties or a lifetime ban for some of the personalities involved.

The thing is, this was just the latest of several incidents where the country hogged the basketball headlines. FHM lists down some of the controversial moments in the past that involved our basketball officials and players.

FIBA suspends the Philippines in 1963

The country was scheduled to host the World Basketball Championships in Manila. Many fans felt this was the PH's best chance to achieve its best finish in the tournament, after once placing third in the 1954 staging held in Rio de Janeiro. With a roster led by the eminent Caloy Loyzaga and made up of stars like Ciso Bernardo, Big Boy Reynoso, Kurt Bachmann, Boy Arazas, Ed Roque, among others, our hopes were high for at least a solid Top 5 finish. Alas, it wasn't meant to be, as then-President Diosdado Macapagal refused to grant visas for players from Communist countries like the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. The Philippines was suspended thereafter—FIBA reasoned out that politics should not have any place in sports. The tournament was eventually held in Brazil that same year, with Manila finally getting the rights in 1978, and later, 2023.

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The Hongkong ambush in 1983

Many may not have known this but the Philippines was supposed to have won the 1983 Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC, now called FIBA-Asia) easily had other countries not conspired to take our team out. Prior to the tournament, the then-governing Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) sought for permission to have naturalized players Jeff Moore and Dennis Still, which was approved. The team defeated India and Kuwait in the eliminations to qualify for the playoffs. A protest was then filed by the hosts because of the two's alleged lack of residency and was upheld by the FIBA Committee, forfeiting our two won games and relegating us to the classification round. With an all-homegrown talent of only 10 players, our boys defeated Southeast Asian rivals Thailand and Malaysia to end up at ninth overall, the first time an unbeaten team ended up this far from the top spot.

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FIBA suspends the Philippines in 2001

Internal conflict among the leadership of the BAP transpired that year. It was uncommon at that time, as Lito Puyat had an iron-clad lock on the presidency. But because of his penchant to politicize the leadership and bring in personalities who were close to the government, something had to give. Prior to the suspension a few years back, Puyat designated himself, Chairman, while appointing then presidential son-in-law, Freddie Jalasco as President. The crisis reached a crescendo in 2001 when Puyat and Jalasco locked heads against the group of Tiny Literal and Graham Lim for the top leadership post. The controversy reached the FIBA office and the verdict was to suspend the country for the second time until the leadership dispute is settled. FIBA ordered an election that was won by Literal, a testament to Lim's growing influence with the FIBA gods.

FIBA suspends the Philippines in 2005

The biggest controversy that rocked Philippine basketball at the time was the shocking defeat of the Cebuana Lhuillier-backed national team to the lowly Parañaque Jets in a preseason tournament. Considering that the Jets were made up of veteran discards from both the pro and amateur ranks, the defeat was too embarrassing that then-POC President Peping Cojuangco encouraged the formation of a new association while stripping membership to the besieged BAP. As such, the country failed to defend its Southeast Asia Games basketball championship held in Manila. The suspension was finally lifted in 2007 when the SBP got FIBA's nod for recognition to take over the BAP. This marked the first time since 1936 when FIBA recognized another basketball body other than the BAP as a member of its fold.

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Gilas-Australia basket-brawl

With the next qualifying window scheduled on September (Philippines against Iran and Qatar), our national team is expected to beef up with fresh faces. Hopefully, Marcio Lassiter, Paul Lee, Scottie Thompson, and Christian Standhardinger, among others, come together and represent our country in the future staging. Moreover, we wish for a more complete roster once the suspensions of all players have been duly served.

 

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